An Effing Basic Social Concept

I have not written for a damn long time. But, hey, I’m back, so here it goes.

I recently returned to the classroom after a hiatus of well, a while. It is amazing and rewarding and exhausting and hilarious and just…something.

It is also quite baffling. Because I can’t seem to figure out what has happened with the kids and the parents and the schools in the time I went from being a teacher to being a mom to being a teacher again. It is a whole new game out there…and one of those newish, crowdfunded games with odd rules and too many cards and such at that.

So I’ll start here. Because this s**t is freaks me out.

For today’s fun, we’re going to talk about one of the most basic social concepts of all, one that many of us start to learn before we are even talking. Why?

Because people are effing doing it wrong.

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The definition of the word share is: to use, occupy, or enjoy (something) jointly with another or others.
Got that?
As in “The boys shared the cars.” Or “Susie shared her blocks with Billy.” Or “The children shared the ball by taking turns.”
The definition of the word share is not “I want what you have so you have to give it to me right now. “
Except, in our crazy modern world…it kinda is.
Sharing went from being the above definition–as in, we’re going to take turns, or divvy it up, or enjoy it together to…
“Give me your s**t.” 
I am frequently told “He/She won’t share.”
Except what the kids aren’t saying is that someone is using all of something and won’t let anyone else use it. There is no concept of cooperative play in the use of the term “sharing.”
What the children are saying is “They have that and I want it and that person won’t give it to me.”
“Share” is a magic word that means you get the thing that someone else has because if they don’t give up the goods, then that a**hole doesn’t know how to effing share!
Yep.
So…typical (and frequent) situation….Little Susie is reading a book. Little Billy also wants to read that book. Little Billy does not approach Little Susie to ask if he can read the book, too. Little Billy instead tells Little Susie to “share the book,” and holds out his hand for her to give it to him.When Little Susie does not, Little Billy promptly wanders over to tell the teacher Little Susie “won’t share” or “is not sharing.”
Now, the teacher can gently explain that Little Susie is reading the book right now.
(This will not go over well.)
The teacher can then gently offer alternatives, such as read the book together (shocking!) or take turns reading the book (gasp!) or perhaps (no, just no!)…. wait till Susie is done reading the book and then she will share it with you (are you f***ing kidding me?)
All good suggestions right? And proper modeling of how to share? With a little social skills intervention thrown in?  Textbook s**t, yo.
It won’t effing work. Because somehow, somewhere along the way, we broke sharing.
We f***ing broke it.
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Even if you explain and model all of the above solutions to the “sharing” of the book to Little Billy, there will not be acceptance of these options. There may be pouting, there may be stomping. There may be crying or whining…or, if it is a really good day, the seventh circle of hell will break loose and Little Billy will go home and tell Mom that Little Susie wouldn’t share and Mom will call you on your lunch break and demand to know why you, the teacher, did not make Little Susie “share” that book,  as it is Little Billy’s God-given right to be “shared” with by having the object he wants given to him.
And sadly, this will be the response of most children (and *cough* parents.) Not because we aren’t teaching the concept of sharing properly in the classroom, but because this jacked up idea of what”sharing” encompasses is now hardwired into human brains.
I am not sure if it starts at sandbox playdates when the babies are told to “Give him/her your bucket” because the mommies are  so fearful the other judgy mommies will judge them and their baby because they brought a red bucket to the sandbox and are playing with the red bucket they brought, but that other baby, he has a blue bucket but wants the red bucket…. so we make our baby “share.”
Or if this simply could just be because we have devolved into such a society of selfish a**holes that this kind of behavior is simply deemed acceptable.
I want it, you have it, give it to me…entitlement, instant gratification, privilege, and all the other happy buzzwords people much smarter than me with much better blogs are writing about.
Scary s**t, huh? That we are raising generations of kids who won’t know what it means to read a book with another person, or fill a bucket with sand together, or take turns playing on the swings…because the things should just be given to..er, I mean, shared with them.
I may be overthinking it.
Or I may just be right, and the world needs to get off their collective a**es and  kick back with a little old school Sesame Street or O.G. Mr. Rogers and get their heads on straight…
Because we’re effing doing it wrong.
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The 104th Circle of Hell, otherwise known as Car Line…

For today’s fun, let’s talk about the School Traffic Line. Or Car Line…Drop-Off Line…Pick-Up Line…104th Circle of Hell Line, or whatever it is that your child’s particular learning institution calls the long line of cars pulling in to either deliver or remove those students who don’t take a bus or walk.

There are myriad things that are irritating in this universe. Cuddly hipster couples blocking the grocery aisle while they peruse the organic, gluten-free snacks. The lady who walks down my street every day at 6:30 in the morning while squawking loudly into her cell phone. People who leisurely stir the creamer and sugar into their coffee while still sitting at the drive thru window. All irritating.

But none more so than the people who don’t know how to use the Traffic/Car/Pick-Up/Drop-Off/Circle of Hell Line at the school. They are just the most irritating. Why? Because it is not a hard thing. Except for when it is. Every school has its own system. Cars drive through the designated area, line up, doors open, children get out and/or get in, doors close, cars go forward, and the next group drives in. This isn’t freaking rocket science. It is not even preschool science. I’m pretty sure any four year old with a set of matchbox cars understands the concept of moving forward, stopping, and moving forward again. Can’t say the same for some adults.

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We experience the effing Car Circle of Hell Line on a daily basis. And because I am a well-meaning, yet slightly foolish human (or just plain stupid,) I actually volunteer to help control traffic a couple of days a week. And every day, whether I am sitting in my car or attempting to wave other people’s cars along, I see mind-blowing, preposterous, and wholly unnecessary bulls*** that brings the nice, speedy flow of traffic to a stop, thus rendering whichever kids are at the back of the line late for school. I have seen it all, and most of it is not good.

Like the dude who refused to move forward, thus stopping the line three cars in, because apparently his child could not walk an extra 20 seconds to the door on picture day. Which is totally fine, because the rest of us can wait. What’s a bell for, anyway? And then there was the random car that in the process of turning into the parking lot, just stopped.The guy gets out of his car, which is still partially in the road, lifts his kid out, and then sends the child wandering through moving traffic before hurrying on his merry way…

Traffic Line. Car Line. Drop-Off Line. Some mornings it feels like the Parade of Idiots.

In an ideal world, here is how we would prevent this:

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Rule #1: Pull your car all the freaking way down. Like, to the end. To the furthest point at which you can stop, thus allowing other cars to fill in the space behind you. This is not typically a great distance. School parking lots are only so big. What? It’s raining, you say? Well, unless Princess hails from the west end of Oz, I’m pretty sure she won’t melt. So pull all the effing way down, pack a damn umbrella, and let the rest of us get our kids to school.

Rule # 2: Put some freaking pants on your kid. I am not even kidding about this one. If your child, for whatever reason, has failed to put clothing on, do not get in the effing Car Line with your half naked kid. If it is winter, put a f***ing coat on. If it is any season, put f***ing shoes on. Those people honking at you? That is because they want to drop their fully dressed children off, and you are preventing this as you frantically search for Junior’s left sock while helping him get each little finger into last year’s too small gloves. Get. Your. Child. Dressed. Before. You. Leave. And if you are having a rough morning and can’t…just park. Those yellow spaces exist for a reason.

Rule #3: Do that sh*t at home! Things that should be done at home, and definitely not done while stopped in the Traffic Line: Seventeen kisses goodbye. The administering of cold medicine. Packing up sporting gear. Finishing a math assignment. Eating pancakes. Applying a full coat of sunscreen. Wrapping the teacher’s gift. Anything requiring glue. Putting three dolls in three seats and then putting the seat belts across their laps. Exiting the car while stopped in the car line to re-arrange the diaper bag for no apparent reason. All of these things…and more…should be done at home. And if you are having a rough morning and can’t…just park. Park your effing car. Again, those yellow spaces exist for a reason.

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Rule #4: Orange cones mean you can’t effing go there. If you are a human that drives on roads, than you should know that if there is an orange cone in a place, your vehicle is really just not supposed to be in that spot. At all. So when you pull into the Drop-Off Line, and you think, hey, I’ll just drive over here because it is closer to the school…don’t. Because that line of orange cones you just ran over, they were meant to separate your moving car from the moving children, and that is why we are all frantically chasing you and yelling things…some of which are not very nice. So please, do not drive over the f***ing orange cones. If you are still confused about the orange cones…park. Just don’t park on the cones.

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Rule #5 (And I say this with vehemence) You are not a f***ing bus driver. I’m sure, at times, the noise level and salty stench of your overcrowded minivan may make you feel like a bus driver; but trust me, you are not a f***ing bus driver. Unless you are driving a large, numbered yellow vehicle that you need a special license to operate, you should not be stopping where the buses stop. Even if it gets you three feet closer to where Princess comes out of the school. More important, you should not ever, ever park your car and get out where the buses stop. Why?  Because if you do this, it jacks everything up. The buses can’t get in. The other traffic can’t get in. And then you are the dumb*** who parked in the bus lane. And everyone will be looking at you like you are a dumb*** when you finally return to your car. So please, believe me. You are not a f***ing bus driver. If you are confused as to where the cars and the big giant buses belong…just park. I guarantee the vehicle you are driving will fit in the yellow space.

Rule #6: Clear the effing egress. While it is pretty much a given that any parent of any age child will have a slightly messy vehicle, Junior should not be climbing out of something that could be on an episode of Hoarders. If your car lets loose an avalanche of toys, sippy cups, empty kleenex boxes, fast food bags and certain other stuff no traffic volunteer should see, or ever know about, then you should probably take a minute to either clean the damn thing or at least shift the mess over to where no one is exiting. Junior scrambling under your car to get five bouncy balls that rolled out…not good. And the vehicles behind you crunching over sixteen empty plastic water bottles…well, that sucks too. Clear the effing egress. And again…if you can’t, please PARK your freaking car.

Rule #7: This is not f***ing valet service. Repeat after me.There are no VIP’s in the Car Line. There are no VIP’s in the Car Line…So that time Princess hung herself halfway out the window yelling for someone to open the door and no one did? Well, last time I checked, the teachers and parents working the Car Line weren’t getting any tips. I will say it again, though much less politely than I said it to the mom who snapped her fingers at me to open her child’s door one blustery winter morning…This is not f***ing valet service. Junior should be able to open the door and exit the vehicle of his own free will. And if Junior, who is clearly of an age to be able to exit said vehicle on his own, cannot or will not do so, than good luck to you. I hope you have a finished basement for him to live in when he is forty-two. In the meantime…just f****ing park. Then the rest of us can let our independent children out of the car in a timely manner.

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Rule #8: The freaking crosswalk exists for a freaking reason. The crosswalk, whether marked with paint or cones or a human with a stop sign is not an obstacle in the way of your timely drop-off; nor is it a mere decoration for you to glance at as you and your child dodge between moving cars. The crosswalk has an actual purpose, and that purpose is so that other humans can safely get past the Traffic Line without being taken out by a family friendly crossover vehicle. So don’t stop on the f***ing crosswalk. Don’t drive on the f***ing crosswalk as other humans are walking across it. Just stay away from the f***ing crosswalk.

On the other side of this, if you are one of the people who has actually parked, so as not to disturb the Car Line with your need for valet service or gift wrapping, please use the f***ing crosswalk when you finally get out of your car and take your kid to school. Just. Use. It. Even after you no longer have Junior with you. Because when you’re too impatient to wait for the cars to come to a stop, and you stroll out in front of some giant black SUV, and the mom wearing giant sunglasses while blowing on her coffee and texting on her phone and helping Princess with her homework and Junior with his gloves doesn’t see you…well, Darwinism. Clearly, you have not adapted to your environment. I will happily call 911, but I can’t fix stupid.

Rule #9: Just be nice. Be nice to the volunteers. Be nice to other drivers. Be nice to pedestrians. Be nice to the buses. Don’t run over impatient jaywalkers and watch out for kids chasing after bouncy balls. Follow directions. Avoid the orange cones. Turn on your listening ears and respect the humans in charge. Don’t shush them. Don’t yell at them. Don’t flip them the bird. We are all doing the same thing with the same goal…to either deposit our children at school, or take them away from the school. All of this can be done in an efficient and non-irritating manner if we just do what we are f***ing supposed to. And we can be nice while doing it.

Happy driving!

That time I bought snob juice…

It is officially back-to-school time, and I just made my first set of lunches. Lovely, reasonably healthy school lunches. It was fun.

No. It was not fun. Making lunches is really not ever fun, but now it is worse.  Because here’s the thing. While grocery shopping, I went to get all the things I would normally get that my kids like and I did this: instead of buying the usual whatever juice boxes/bags my kids like, I shelled out the extra $2-3 for the supposedly much better organic 100% juice made from exquisite fruits picked on a sustainable farm by fairly paid farm workers living in a democratic country. Or whatever.

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I did it. I bought the expensive all-natural, better be freaking Nectar of the Gods for that price juice boxes. And my kids are going to hate them. Even if they have way more sugar than the regular old crappy juice boxes. But this magical juice will look so nice next to their lunches…all pretty in the recyclable packaging the bright label that screams…”look at me, I’m so healthy and this responsible mom is super healthy and so are her kids and they all drink pricey juice that is way better than that other juice that isn’t even really juice and…”

F**ck. I just became THAT mom. I did it. I totally caved in to peer pressure and bought Snob Juice.

What the hell was I thinking? I know what I was thinking. I was thinking about that one time  I had to bring snack for a school event or club, it was just really kind of horrible and stressful. Can you bring fruit? Fruit is good…but what if isn’t organic? Right? Because you can totally tell these perfectly plump strawberries are not organic. But organic strawberries for 35 kids? Not happening. What about little ham-roll ups? Nope…nitrates. Goldfish crackers? Don’t you know Goldfish crackers are bad?  The organic little bunny things that are supposed to taste like Goldfish crackers? Nope…my kid says they DO NOT taste like Goldfish crackers. Cookies? Sure…cookies. Just not the kind with sugar.

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Fruit snacks? NO. Under no circumstances are you ever supposed to bring fruit snacks to anything ever anymore. They are horrifying little nuggets of gelatin filled with dyes and chemicals and corn syrup and probably some eye of newt and the blood of a virgin as well. You don’t ever bring fruit snacks. Or Kool-Aid. Trust me. Don’t ever bring Kool-Aid.

It is bad enough now that if you sign up to bring a snack to any kid-related thing it is expected to be some cutesy themed cocktail toothpick skewered masterpiece created by using special order cookie cutters and multi-step instructions from various internet websites. It is even worse that if you dare to send a packaged goody, it has to come with a carefully printed label containing a cutesy pun that sort of explains and makes it okay that you bought packaged goodies. But now your packaged goodies can’t just be packaged goodies. They have to be the RIGHT kind of packaged goody. The non-GMO, all-natural, totally organic sawdust and twig flavored kind of goody. Why? Because it is better? Because it is healthier?

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F**k no.  Because *gasp* other moms might judge you if you brought the regular stuff.

There. I said it. We do all these crazy things because other moms might judge us. We make bento box lunches with cartoon character shaped sandwiches and little cubes of cheese in cupcake liners and perfectly julienned carrot sticks because, well…a sandwich and an apple (a non-organic GMO apple) just won’t cut it anymore. We scour the shelves in the supermarket during the spare 10 minutes we have for the brand specific, gluten free, salt free pretzels on the Halloween party sign up.  Sure… the big bag of pretzel sticks would probably do the trick, but hey… we might get the side eye if we brought that s**t. Yep. Other moms might judge us. Or they might not. We might just be worrying that they will, and so we go to extremes, because hey, opinions matter, whether they exist or not.

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I’m not saying it isn’t okay to be health conscious. Because it totally is. Being healthy is wonderful and wanting our kids to be healthy is even better. And as a former teacher, I can tell you that not feeding the kids eight kinds of frosted cupcakes at the holiday party is really just a GREAT idea. So yeah, being healthy is fabulous.

But so is reality. And being a mom. And sometimes, a mom’s gotta do what a mom’s gotta do. Occasionally that involves feeding her kids, and maybe other people’s kids, some stuff that is not the greatest.

Like fruit snacks. Because maybe the mom that brought those bad fruit snacks in had a really rough day. Maybe the dog projectile vomited all over the house, and she was late for work, and the kids were late for school, and one of them forgot to finish their homework, and there were 100 other errands to run that day because her husband was sick, and it was late and the kids were crabby and she ran into the store and grabbed the fruit snacks because they were the first thing she saw. And then she grabbed the Kool Aid because it was next to the fruit snacks. And it was on sale. And she really didn’t feel like spending and extra $50 in that moment to come up with a really super healthy awesome snack the kids would actually like.

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Pssst…I am so sorry for that time I fed your kids artificially flavored non-organic GMO fruit snacks. With Kool-Aid. 

Except I’m not. Because it was late and I was tired and the display was right inside the door so I bought them. And I made up for it later in the year by cutting up approximately 64 equally portioned cubes of non-processed mild cheddar cheese for another event. So there.

And then several years later…because I was maybe a little scarred by that fruit snack incident, I caved and bought Snob Juice. I did it. And now I’m sending my kids to school with Snob Juice. And a regular sandwich. With a GMO, non-organic apple. Of course.

Maybe, for the next classroom party I will create beautiful artistically crafted individual organic fruit bouquets.

Or maybe I will just send a Costco sized bottle of neon green punch. With potato chips.

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Either way, I’m sure the kids will enjoy it.

It isn’t easy and it isn’t always perfect and sometimes it is NOT EVEN fun…

For today’s fun, let’s talk about volunteering.

Partly because I, like a lot of other well-meaning, yet slightly foolish humans, do quite a bit of it. And partly because with the upcoming school year getting ever so near, the inevitable avalanche of requests, needs, demands, and online sign-ups has me filled with a strong sense of impending doom.

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But mostly let’s talk about it because I, like a lot of other well-meaning, yet slightly foolish humans, am just really freaking annoyed.

I volunteer. Year-round. Usually for things that are school or kid related. Occasionally for things I dislike, because it helps out a friend or because there is a need. Mostly for things that I do not mind, or actually love, doing.

Things that I actually love doing until some well (or not-so-well) meaning, yet slightly rude/inconsiderate/unthinking/kinda selfish human ruins it for me.

You know the ones I’m talking about. The ones with the opinions about how it could be better. The ones with the demands. The ones with the repetitive questions. The ones that think that you are an employee. And my personal favorite, the ones that are just so busy with their busy children and busy lives and general busy-ness that well, they are just too busy and they need you to communicate/arrange/set-up all the things RIGHT NOW because their very valuable time is being infringed upon.

In other words, the ones not doing the volunteering. If you should happen to be one of the ones I’m talking about, you may not want to read this next part.

Or maybe you should. There’s hope for everyone.

Often, like the rest of you well-meaning yet slightly foolish humans, the things that I volunteer for require quite a bit of planning, communication, effort and energy. And time. Lots and lots and lots of time. Time, that I believe, is MY time. Time, that I believe, is time that belongs to all the other millions of volunteers doing the things that need to get done.

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Volunteering means giving freely of your time and energy to accomplish whatever thing needs to be accomplished, for whatever good cause or great event or general need that there is.

Volunteering isn’t always easy and it isn’t always perfect. Sometimes, for us well-meaning yet slightly foolish humans, it takes a while to get things set up. Sometimes we end up playing phone tag with the field trip coordinator at that REALLY FUN PLACE. Sometimes we have to make lists and inventories and…I don’t know, plan stuff. Sometimes people don’t return emails, or things get lost, or that REALLY FUN PLACE isn’t available or whatever. Sometimes life (with the puking kid or traveling husband,) or our actual jobs (the ones we get PAID for) get in the way. Sometimes, we are just sitting at home eating bonbons and shirking our volunteer duties.

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Except we’re not. Like, ever.

That being said, the only person being inconvenienced by this is the PERSON WHO IS VOLUNTEERING TO TAKE THE TIME AND ENERGY TO DO THE THING!

Again, volunteering isn’t always easy and it isn’t always perfect. Yes, everything could be more organized/more timely/more professional/more convenient/more perfect and JUST PLAIN BETTER.

And you could be one of those ones who points out that everything could be more organized/more timely/more professional/more convenient/more perfect and JUST PLAIN BETTER to all of us well-meaning, yet slightly foolish humans.

Yes. You could be a total a-hole.

Or you could be nice. Be patient. Be a little understanding. You could even say thank you. Or you could offer to help. Or do it your damn self. Or I don’t know, maybe NOT SPEAK. Any of these would be really good choices.

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But seriously, thank the well-meaning yet slightly foolish humans volunteering to do the thing. It isn’t easy and it isn’t always perfect and sometimes it is NOT EVEN fun, but they do it.

And you should be grateful.

End of Year…End of Days.

For today’s fun…

Let’s talk about parties. And awards programs. And music concerts. And field day. And all the other just before summer, last month of school, really totally necessary celebratory crap that us parents have to squeeze in during the four weeks prior to our children being set free.

Because, you know, ta6cf5582f82380d1bdf0bb13f1489650he end of the year isn’t enough of a crunch already with the teachers trying to cram in six chapters of social studies, plus projects and tests and exams and homework and well, stuff.

At our school, when we get into that last month, I pretty much know it is time to clear my calendar and face the horrible, hard truth that whatever kid-free time I have left is no longer mine to call my my own. Because every single school/activity/group will have things. Things that require my time, my energy, my willingness to spend money, and above all, my presence, because apparently if you miss even the slightest, smallest event…your children will grow up to be social deviants, forever scarred by your absence during class party #438 and other parents will notice and point out that, hey, we didn’t see you at the thing…

Yes. That happened. Not the social deviant part. Yet. But there was some noticing and pointing out.

End of Year…End of Days.

I suck at being End of Days Mom. Really, I do. I’m bad enough during the regular school year with my very moderate participation, but once the weather warms up…online sign-ups send me into a deep state of avoidance and procrastination. Reminder notes from school multiply on the counter. Field trip chaperoning, teacher appreciation contributing, party helping, concert clapping…I’ll do it all…eventually. But I won’t like any of it.

Also, I fucking hate field day.

11426192_10205612706670409_82641071910971261_nReally. I strongly dislike it. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to offend anyone, because the humans who plan our field day should be sainted with whatever sainthood comes from organizing hundreds of kids and color coordinated parent volunteers and activities into a joyous afternoon awesomeness. I mean this sincerely. Our field day rocks, and I’m lucky to have my kids at such a great school with such dedicated parents.

But I still hate it. Mostly because I don’t understand why everything we do for our kids has to be such a big, giant blowout of perfectly planned fun. Remember when the gym teacher was in charge of field day? And it was an actual field day…with relay races and kickball and the mile run and if you were lucky you got one of those red Popsicles at the end? It was probably hot and everyone was thirsty and sometimes it was great and sometimes it sucked? Field day isn’t like that anymore.  We still have kickball. The kids just play in between visiting the bounce houses and the ice cream truck and the water station and the other things that are not sporting events.

When did everything have to become a party? More important, why does everything have to have a party? Does the end of every single thing our children have ever done have to end in a party? And not just a “we’ll eat cupcakes and do a craft party,” but a party party. Like with themes. And color coordinated plates. (I am not kidding. I once offended a class party mom by not bringing matching tablecloths to the Christmas shindig.) It is crazy. My daughter’s kindergarten year, the End of Days party was a picnic. For the End of Days class gift, the teacher requestedimage1 buckets. Then she requested a list of tiny toy trinkets to fill the buckets with. Chalk. Bubbles. Bouncy balls. Squirt guns. And more! Every kid went home with a keepsake bucket of toys from the parents…er…teacher.

We won’t even discuss the year I made 65 water balloons…

Did my kids have fun with all of this? Absolutely. I’m sure they had a great time and will remember all of it. Especially that time the tablecloths didn’t match.

My youngest kid’s teacher had a really novel idea of how to celebrate the End of Days this year. The kids are going to take their lunches outside. And eat on the grass. And then they are going to play. On the playground. 

No parent volunteers. No tropical luau plates. No horrible crafting website individual fruit sculptures. Her only request was that if someone had time (if someone had time!) they bring in some cut up watermelon for a treat.

Pure fucking genius. Because really, what could be better than extra time in the fresh air, playing with your friends, on a playground, on the last full day of school?

End of Days. Complete with parties, and more parties, and whatever random celebrations for whatever sport/group/activity your child belongs to within or outside of school. Plus awards programs. And spring music programs. And open houses and ice cream socials and Grandparents/Special Person day and and that one last fundraiser. And fucking field day. And any other festive occasion that can be crammed into the space of a few short weeks, because hey, we couldn’t do any of this during the other eight months of school.

I suck at being End of Days Mom. Because all of this…it is just too much. I want my kid to remember all these special childhood events. But she probably won’t. Because the 2nd grade concert will probably take place on the same day as a field trip the night before a class party and a school assembly and all those memories will get blurred into a fuzzy blob of too many things. With ice cream, of course.

Also, I’m tired. Even if this year I don’t have to fill up 65 water balloons. But I’m pretty sure there are a couple of sign-ups I missed. And there’s still field day. Fucking field day.

A for freaking effort…

For today’s fun, we’ll talk about grades. And report cards. And other such school related magic.

A few days ago, I said this:

” Yeah…we’re not really worried about grades at this point.”

And with that statement, in this day of accolades, achievements, test scores, perfectionism, and helicopter parenting, I broke every cardinal rule of modern day child rearing. I think I broke the assistant principal, too, because she looked at me a little like this:

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In her defense, my kids attend a really, truly amazing school full of educationally committed parents who line up at the office door if their kids so much as get a B on a math test or fail to make the fabulous wall of achievement in the hallway. So I can’t really blame her for the complete and utter shock at what really came across as the underachieving parental philosophy of the year. I’m fairly certain she thought I was sealing my child’s fate as a future high school drop out and alley dweller.

Her response to me was: ” Shouldn’t you be?”

My response. “Nope.”

To clarify, I had said that we were not worried about grades “at this point.” As in we weren’t worried right now, in this moment, at this particular present time.

My oldest kid entered middle school this year, and sixth grade did not hit us like a freight train. It hit us like a freight train carrying rockets carrying nuclear missiles. Schedule changes. New routines. Multiple tests, homework, and projects to study for all at once. Too many binders. Work checks. Algebra. Seven different teachers with seven different ways of doing things and the expectation that all of these sweet, wonderful, children will just magically adjust and achieve stuff with a test, project, and homework load that would make most adults cry a river of frustrated tears.

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Yep. So there’s that. And this:

My kid has the typical attention span issues that many kids face. She also has a healthy dose of learning issues, accompanied by the usual school related anxiety and lack of organizational skills that comes with this bit of fun. Throw in a great big helping of  tween hormones and all of the social nonsense of middle school, and you’ve got a recipe for a hot mess.

So no, I wasn’t worried about grades. I was worried about her assignments coming home. I was worried about her turning things in. I was worried about her studying and studying, only to have her fail a test because she got nervous. I was worried about her having to redo math assignments, because she wrote an answer wrong, or solved an equation right to left instead of left to right. I worried about mean teachers and I worried about meaner kids. I worried about her self-esteem. I worried about her giving up.

So here we are, near the end of this first year, and while most of my giant pile of worry has been cast aside, I still refuse to worry about the damn grades.

Because last night, my kid spent four and a half hours doing  homework. Homework that she remembered to bring home, on her own, without my help. Homework that she knew would take her twice as long as the children she refers to as “those responsible kids”, and probably eat up most, if not all of her free time.  For math, she told me she had to do page 975. It was actually 579. I watched as she wrote the answer 12 as a 21, erased and wrote again. I watched as she sat there diligently, writing, erasing, and rewriting, until it was all done correctly, because she had promised this teacher she would “do better.” Several weeks ago she took it upon herself to do all her math on graph paper because it was “easier to keep track of the numbers.” Then it was on to the next assignment, which took even longer, because answering questions on a test review isn’t easy when the format of the book confuses your eyes. And then typing on the computer, because it is easier to see your spelling and grammar errors and impossible to reverse a letter when you’ve got good old MS word helping you out. And then the studying. For a Social Studies quiz that may or may not go well, depending on the level of anxiety, the absence or presence of a word bank, and the random distractions going on in the classroom. Over four hours of this. So, as she said, she “could bring her grades up.”

So grades are the least of my worries.  Because in this year alone I have watched my child demonstrate more perseverance and execute more problem solving skills than most adults my age. I’ve watched her take a situation that completely overwhelmed her, and find ways to make it not so overwhelming. I’ve watched her try, and fail, and try and fail, and keep trying. I’ve watched her cry about her report card and say she “isn’t smart” because she wasn’t seeing those A’s and then work harder, even though we have told her over and over again that her best effort is more than good enough. I’ve watched her come home beaming from a nice compliment from a teacher or a successful day. I’ve watched her handle her challenges with bravery, humor, and the occasional sarcasm. I’ve watched her pick herself up from failure, and celebrate success. So while I don’t denigrate the importance of grades, I can’t place them high on the list at this moment, because what my kid (and so many other kids dealing with whatever stuff they are dealing with in this modern age)  has accomplished in a single year can’t be measured by a letter on a piece of paper.

So yeah, I’m not really worried about grades at this point. Because my kid is an effing rockstar. So is yours. So are the “responsible kids.” So are the kids on the wall, and the kids with straight A’s, and the kids working their butts off to pass a class. They get an an  A for freaking effort.

So is the wise teacher who wrote this. Perhaps I will send it to our assistant principal.

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